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Final Fantasy can save your marriage! (Or at least make it better!)
My wife and I have been playing Final Fantasy 13 together for more than 60 hours and I am loving it even as she berates me for selling a few items without her permission.
"And guess what we need to upgrade the white capes punkbutt?! Pervoskyte!"
This and countless similar gems have been uttered with frequency from my wife's mouth in the last couple of days.
When we tackle an RPG as a couple I handle most of the battles, and the long level grinds, while she is in charge of the strategy guide, pouring over techniques for the next fight, handling most of the character upgrades, and the special item procurements.
It is a division of labor with which we have used on several RPG's in the past, and it's always amazed me just how enjoyable it could be to work as a team to play through a good game, even when she is taking impish delight in teasing me about a mistake.
She most recently had a fine time reminding me the strategy guide called one fight "an unremarkable two-minute battle"' after I'd struggled to beat it in five.
Video games in general also have an amazing capacity to bring out the foul mouthed sailor in the wife. She used to be a hardcore raider in World of Warcraft, and I used to worry about the neighbors calling the cops some nights, as she'd toss her headset down and shout "FuckFuckFUCK!" after particularly rough raid deaths.
I find it endearing. All of it.
Especially when I drop a tough boss, or beat a game. The cheers of "You did it sweetie!" makes every victory all that much sweeter.
Unfortunately, it's not victory time now, when we're still struggling with some of the tougher mark hunts.
"Ah Hope, I pumped up your Fog resist, punkface!" she says, as the Gigantuar beats us down yet again. It is a moment of frustration, but it's a shared moment. We're a team and we're facing a problem together. I've seen relationships struggle because of video games, but in our case, it's brought us closer.
A few gamers I know eschew the professional strategy guides at all costs, either because they hate having the challenge of a game "spoiled" for them, or because it just seems a waste of money, 200 glossy pages that doesn't tell you anything the instruction manual, and a quick online search can't. I used to be a bit of both, but then I married a fellow gamer, and it all changed.
RPG's are traditionally solitary games. Until the recent explosion in MMO gaming, RPG's were strictly single player experiences. Not only that, but they rarely make for good spectator games. After all, how long does watching someone flick cursors across menus remain exciting.
It takes a special appreciation for RPG's to be able to watch another person play one for any length of time. My brother and I, growing up with a shared video game console, spent hours watching each other play. Often the game in question was a Final Fantasy title.
My future wife and I met in college. She would hang out at the house and play Starcraft with the guys. She started beating me a lot with Protoss, and she had my respect. A few years later she would have my heart too.
We discovered the synergistic fun of playing RPG's together during the Playstation II console cycle, going through the HACK series.
The game was perfect for our playing preferences. The fast paced battles suited me just fine, and the huge variety of weapons, and trading system kept her busy once I got out of the dungeons.
Notice I didn't mention story as one of the elements that we as a couple have really enjoyed together.
Modern RPG's have become much, much more cinematic, with a bigger emphasis on storytelling. Unfortunately, the traditional "We've got to save the world!" shtick never ever really interested my wife. Like the rare movie that we both like, a good story, with maybe some romance to it would really interest us more. Romance unfortunately, has not traditionally been handled well in the history of gaming, and even when handled pretty well, it seems to be sexual content that always gets the press. But I have hope. Playing through Final Fantasy 10 with my wife, we had an incling of appreciation for the main romance. We hold out hope that future RPG's will capture our interest with gameplay, as well as a real storyline that can engage us as a couple.
This would be my one gripe with the latest Final Fantasy - the story never quite grabbed us, and it was bewildering how, with so many cut scenes, we still needed to study the datalogs to figure out what the hell was really going on. I will say though, Sahz's story arc made me feel a little something.
As I type this, the struggle against the Gigantuar continues. The wife is convinced an all-out assault, counting on an "instant stagger proc" is what is called for.
"We just have to get lucky one time," she pouts.
I'm convinced that a more defensive approach, including dedicated healing from Hope will get the job done.
She just takes a second to quip a response.
"Yeah, if Hope wasn't such a suckass."